Mar 10 AT 7:07 PM Taylor Wimberly 45 Comments

AT&T 4G HSPA+ is a fast network for fast people, if you hack your phone and live in the right city

AT&T recently began the big push to start promoting their 4G network and phones. Their company website boasts, “With 4G from AT&T, you can do more, see more, and enjoy more on what is already the nation’s fastest mobile broadband network.”

It sounds wonderful, but make sure you read the fine print.

Buried at the bottom of their site it reads, “4G speeds require a 4G device and are delivered when HSPA+ technology is combined with enhanced backhaul. 4G speeds available in limited areas with availability increasing with ongoing backhaul deployment.”

Earlier this year AT&T announced they had deployed HSPA+ to virtually 100% of their mobile broadband network, but only a handful of cities have the advanced backhaul to deliver 4G speeds. It appears that around a dozen markets have 4G speeds according to AT&T’s network map.

Current areas with 4G coverage include:

  • Northern California
  • Bay Area, CA
  • Greater Los Angeles, CA
  • Greater Dallas, TX
  • Houston, TX
  • Chicago, IL
  • Charolette, NC
  • Baltimore, MD
  • Buffalo, NY
  • Boston, MA
  • Providence, RI
  • Puerto Rico

We don’t know when 4G speeds will be coming to other markets, but AT&T says they hope to have 2/3 of their mobile traffic be delivered over their enhanced backhaul by the end of 2011.

Another disappointing fact about AT&T’s 4G network is that their only two 4G handsets, the Atrix 4G and Inspire 4G, both have High-Speed Uplink Packet Access (HSUPA) disabled at this time. That means the upload speeds on AT&T’s 4G phones are limited to a rather slow 300 kbps, while older 3G phones like the iPhone 4 can deliver upload speeds in excess of 1.5 Mbps (5x faster).

Users who have hacked the Inspire 4G and loaded custom ROMs were able to enable HSUPA and “unlock” the device’s true 4G speeds, so we know the hardware is capable delivering what was promised.

Thankfully AT&T can turn on the “4G speeds” of their 4G devices with a simple firmware upgrade, but users will still have to be in one of the limited markets with enhanced backhaul to experience the faster performance.

For now, AT&T 4G is major disappointment.

Update: An unofficial response from the @ATT Twitter account reads, “If you aren’t happy with your device and it’s within 30 days of purchase, we’d be happy to let you return it.”

Taylor is the founder of Android and Me. He resides in Dallas and carries the Samsung Galaxy S 4 and HTC One as his daily devices. Ask him a question on Twitter or Google+ and he is likely to respond. | Ethics statement

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  • http://Website Zack

    If only AT&T stops crippling upload speeds on the Atrix 4G..Everyone will enjoy it !

    • http://Website Anonymous

      AT&T is just desperate at this point because they don’t have that exclusivity to the iPhone anymore.

      And if they keep messing around, they might find themselves bought out or taken down to the 3rd largest US carrier spot.

      And technically, AT&T still calls themselves the fastest, to those without Androids.
      When in reality, Android is what most likely could save AT&T from their self made mess & their greed from their iPhone days.

      Unfair & ridiculous data caps on Android phones = FAIL!
      No unlimited data options = FAIL!
      AT&T = FAIL!

      • DRAGoN

        All the carriers will eventually drop unlimited. the reason behind sprint and tmobile still being able to offer it is because they combined dont have as many customers as verizon or at&t, therefore it would be a lie to call a 4g phone 4g with 4gspeeds as fast as they were but the amount of users tieing up lines and internet would reduce the speed. similar to having mulitiple devices connected to the same wi-fi network. slows down the speed. the carriers cap to to deliver whats fair. AT&T bought out? not in a million years. You shoudl research your words before clicking ok. dummy

        • STYSON

          AT&T was already bought out years ago by Cingular. Cingular just renamed to AT&T instead of using the Cingular name. Do your research. I did.

          • Matt

            Ok no that is wrong

            SBC Bought the original AT&T Corp, renamed itself to AT&T. Then they later bought Cingular and renamed them to AT&T.

  • http://Website Alexandroid

    I wish this was more well-known among the “average” consumer. The fact that Att can get away with this is rediculous. Can’t wait to dump my Captivate and get on to T-Mo who has a much better grasp on customer support.

  • http://Website nate957

    I prefer T-mobile’s 21 mbps network, as you don’t have to hack your device to get the higher speeds!!!

    • drew

      I have unlocked. An ATT inspire..that now.being.used.on T-Mobile. All I get is.edge.please. don’t.know.what I’m.doing.except..I.had.previously rooted this phone but. This one is not

      • GoGumby

        The reason your not geting anything better than edge is the frequency of your phone. Nothing you can do about it. Should have read the fine print of the rom you installed before you moved to Tmobile. ATT phones work great there but no with their data.

  • http://Website Thorpeland

    WOW… So AT&T’s twitter response was essentially like saying “Fine, if you don’t like us… there’s there door”. Im with Tmobile and if i would have reached out to them on Twitter, they would have responded with help to figure out why im not happy and what they can do to make me happy. And try to KEEP ME as a customer. ATT’s first response is a complete give up and admission to 2nd rate service.

    First ATT only releases crippled Android devices, now they keep Android devices on a crippled connection. Unbelievable. Antics like this is why i will continue to refer family and friends to steer clear of ATT. They are definitely not customer first.

    • Dr.Jeckyl

      I find the TMo Twitter VERY friendly and is always engaging customers. I couldn’t ask for a nicer rep of a company.

    • STYSON

      Check out red pocket. If you already have an AT&T phone you can get unlimited text and call and 2GB of data for 59.99 prepaid. I have made the switch. I am getting 1.5 Mb on speed test with only 2 bars of service. When I was on AT&T contract could only get .5mb speed at best with a full signal. I still live in the same house so nothing has changed except for my provider.

  • http://Website jose

    Thanks God I have Verizon ….at&t doesn’t care about their costumers ..T-Mobile and Verizon are the only ones that have true 4g ..sorry sprint ..

    • http://Website fhdhs

      Although T-Mobile has the best “4g” network, no carrier has true 4g

      • http://Website jose

        By true 4g I meant the best though I disagree tmobile has the best..

      • http://Website Mike

        I hate AT&T HSUPA limit to 300k. I have Atrix and never get upload speed for more than 300 k. However, T-mobile is no good either, either in building. I have not signal in the building in most of boston metro area. I had been with tmobile for 4 years and had HTC G1 since oct, 2008. Even though I have unlimited data plan, I was never able to consume more than 100 m of data per month. That’s why I dump T-mobile. I don’t think they are good either, I get 0 kbps in building most of the time. I was thinking to switch to Verizon. But their LTE phone keep delaying. I don’t want to wait and give at&t a trial. Now I can only hope at&t keep their promise and deliver hspa+ by summer time. That’s what I get from a guy in at&t Burlington store. Most of at&t store guys are idiots and know nothing, even what hspa+ means. but this guys is good. so from what he knew, hspa+ will be ready in mid-June in Boston, and be ready from boston up to Rt I-95 circle by mid August. That’s why I bought Atrix (and be the first time at&t customer) and hope they keep their word to reach 6 mbps by the sumer. I have been testing around boston area since I got Atrix two weeks ago, it averages 1.5 mbps and max out 3 mbps. So hspa+ is definitely not available in Boston yet.

        • http://Website HRPuffnstuff

          You do know the Tmobile G2 can make phone calls over WIFI right? I was in a dead zone and activated it on the phone and made a call over a Dunkin Donuts w free WIFI.

          • http://Website Mike

            For me, smart phone is not just for call, it acts as a computer. It’s useless if I can’t access intenet in building. That’s why I dump Tmobile and give at&t a shoot. I’m still wait for 6 mbps down at&t promise, but at least I get 1.5 mbps down in most boston area, even inside the building. another tip for at&t is that their hspa+ is limited. the problem is that both atrix and inspire 4g have network of AT&T US HSDPA as default (their 4g). So if your phone pick up hspa+ signal, it will use it, even if the signal is weak. So if you notice the netweek speed is slow, such as 600 kbps, you can switch network to AT&T US (wap.cingular) under APN config, the old 3g. You can get around 2 mbps like those inferior iphones get. I’m an engineer, so i know the trick. Of course it’s suck to switch back and force, but until they turn on hspa+, you just need to do that for hspa+ phones. As for tmobile, don’t talk about 4g, they don’t even have 3g. They boasted hspa+ since last June (Sep. in Boston/Burlington area). I checked HTC mytouch 4g in burlington store 2 weeks ago, the download speed is 100 kbps. Image that, in their own store. The reason is that their 3g spectrum is 1700/2100 MHz. That’s not going to penetrate inside the building. Plus, the best phone they have is single core, ARM Cortex V8 CPU, like iphone 4. That’s 2-yr old technology. In Smart phone term, that’s stone age.

        • http://Website jose

          Sorry I didn’t mean to say tmobile had the best 4g …I meant that they weren’t the best..I believe verizon has the best service but like you said I’m waiting on them to deliver their 4g phones..

  • http://Website Oliver

    I live in the bay area, ca where they say there’s 4g coverage and my best test was 4mbps. And that was 2 out of 100 times. I average 2-3 mbps. Smh

    • Taylor Wimberly

      Thats sad. I just spoke with someone in Chicago (another 4G city) and they were only getting 3 Mbps downloads max. 300 kbps updloads of course.

    • sacramentos

      In Sacramento i get 6mb down and 1.5mb up. Stock atrix rom, a custom rom it pulls almost 12 down and upload stays at 1.5

  • Galen20K

    T-Mobile’s HSPA+ is far FAR superior than Att’s. case closed.

    • http://Website Derek

      Yea its better if you live in the 10 square block area that T-Mobile actually serves with 4G. The rest of their territory is edge. At&t might be slower data speed but their 3G network extends much further outside of the cities and covers every major interstate.

      • http://Website Rob916

        Really? We use a TMO myTouch 4G in our tow truck with the hotspot on connected to a Panasonic Toughbook all day driving all over the damn place and we have excellent speeds everywhere we have to go. This is in Northern California. Consistant speeds over 5MB and upload speeds anywhere from 1MB-2.5MB.

        • http://Website Derek

          Well maybe in Northern Cali, they have good coverage. But before I got my phone I compared AT&T and T-mo and based on T-mo’s own maps on their website, their coverage barely covered the city limits of all the areas I travel – Charlotte NC, Raleigh NC, Columbia SC, and Jacksonville FL. Meanwhile AT&T’s coverage for mobile broadband extends much further out of the city and into the surrounding suburbs and towns. I’ve also heard that on several blogs as well. If T-mo works well where you are, good for you, but here in the southeast USA T-mo for the longest time only served the largest cities with even 3G, they still havent caught up to AT&T with coverage area. So even if T-mo has 100Mbps 4G if they dont cover your area its no good.

  • http://Website iPad2 ♥♥♥

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  • Drew

    I find it hilarious that as I look AT&T Mobility’s hq, that the city of Atlanta has no HSPA+.

    Sorry AT&T, I’ll enjoy T-Mobile’s cheaper and faster 4G.

  • http://Website Ryan Kim

    AT&T has an awesome commercial. Too bad the network they are advertising sucks in reality.

    • WickedToby741

      They really should have spent the money they wasted on that commercial to actual improve their network backhaul. Cool commercials don’t make customers happy, getting what you pay for does. I don’t think AT&T gets that you have to actually back up your claim before bragging about it. Otherwise you get unhappy customers, of which AT&T seems to have a lot of for various reasons.

  • WickedToby741

    I can’t wait for the T-Mobile commercial highlighting this flaw. They seem to love to rag on AT&T and AT&T is just making it easier for them. Plus, AT&T deserves the negative publicity for this so average consumers know their being taken advantage of too.

  • Dano Hart

    I live in Pensacola, FL and bought a Atrix on launch day. Immediately had data speed increase. Speed tests show nothing UNDER 4mbps as to was doing great to get 1.8mbps on my unlocked nexus one. From my little traveling around, AT&T’s promise of turning their 3G network to “4G” speeds, is true with my testings.

    • Drew

      I have a feeling that you work for AT&T… and not live in Pensacola.

    • Johnnie

      Yea i live in pensacola,fl and have the infuse 4g. i never hit more than 3mps anywhere in town!!

  • coyotejbob

    I can’t speak for the rest of the country but here in Northern western washington State, from Olympia up to the canadian border I get 4g speeds on T Mobile with my MT4G. Very few dead zones at least for my route. I even get signal where the verizon guys don’t .

  • http://Website Richard

    We all know At&t and Verizon are a joke so are there purposed 4g service and all there device. It’s ASHAME what asst&t is doing to android and every device on there network by not allowing the device to operate as intended from the manufacturer.. Looking down devices and elemenating features is nothing more than there NOT SUPPORTING ANDROID 100%.. At least Verizon has been loyal to android they just don’t have any true 4G devices nor is there LTE service doing any justice to anyone at this moment…. SPRINT RULES ALL CARRIERS TODAY AND ALWAYS WILL

  • 1ML

    You should see what it’s like in the UK, it’s a bloody joke, 3G is barely working in some parts of the country, let alone 4G. Most of the carriers nearly when bankrupt because of the cost of 3G licences. 4G will probably be a massacre because I doubt trhe government have learned a thing about rolling out new technology and the needs for that to actually happen, and this government is particularly stupid, and incredibly deceitful..

  • http://Website Mark (Mobile, Al)

    (I’ll probably get down voted & trolled upon for this comment but it’s just that. My personal opinion as each of us have our own.) I’m speaking purely from personal experience or having witnessed things from friends on other networks than the one I’m with, Which happenes to be Verizon (No choice of mine since Alltel was bought out by them). I was with sprint for two years, and had very good service with them. I experienced dropped calls here and there but, nothing crazy. My good friend has been with T-Mobile for about four years and rarely does he or his wife recieve a 3G signal. In fact, when he and his wife are at my home, neither one of them have any service at all. While sitting right next to me, inside or outside my home. I have steady 3G with 3 of 4 bars on my DroidX and 3 of 5 bars on my iPhone (Verizon), while his and his wifes phones are still reading searching for service with an X where the bars should be. My Boss has been with AT&T for who knows how long. He has an iPhone 3GS, and I can attest to one thing he has going for him and that is, AT&T’s 3G seems to be faster than Verizon’s in our area but, that is of course if he can get a signal. As for my experience with Verizon. (This is the comment I get trolled on about) ;). First off, I have five lines 2 are mine 1 is my wifes & the other 2 for my sons. The phones we have are mine which are a DroidX & iPhone 4, My wifes is a Droid, my oldest son has a Droid & my youngest son has a Droid Eris. Out of all five lines, the only one we have any trouble at all with is my youngest son’s HTC Droid Eris and it’s the 4th one he’s had with the same problems of weak signals. I keep consistent 3G signals with both my phones even while traveling from state to state. I use my DroidX to tether my iPhone to it’s wifi connection so I can Face time with my daughter at home on her iPod through my wife’s wifi tethering on her Droid and it works flawlessy. ( even though it sucks that the iPhone won’t do FaceTime over 3G without being jailbroken). Anyway, that’s my experiences with the top U.S Networks. To each his own, as we all live in different area’s and have different experiences. My service has been the best and most consistent with Verizon. To me, it’s the most reliable & contrary to many beliefs, it’s not slow either. Thanks for reading & to the trolls. ;) Happy trolling!

    • WickedToby741

      I agree with you. I’m on Verizon too and its not like I enjoy paying more than people o other carriers, but I just get a better experience. Verizon’s coverage area is just larger and the service tends to be of a better quality and thats why I stay with them. Speed doesn’t matter as much to me as availability, and Verizon rules at that. Sure, they have some bad policies here and there and they sure love to load bloatware on their phones, but the service is great and they still keep a pretty darn good lineup of Android phones. T-Mobile and Sprint sound great sometimes (never really AT&T), but I just can’t justify going to a carrier with less coverage area. Verizon really has more bars in more places, and thats one of the most important aspects of a cell phone in my opinion.

  • 401k

    The location and handset are important considerations in using the service. The article is a good review for AT&T’s network and a comparison of its speed to other 3g C33phones. However, AT&T are still after their customers’ satisfaction.

  • http://Website Uninspired

    I have an HTC Inspire; I’m waiting for this month’s HSUPA firmware update to see if I notice a difference in my network speeds (WiFi speeds are screaming but that has nothing to do with AT&T). I live in NH so RI is the closest area with advanced backhaul (surprised Boston is not on the list). I’m going to give AT&T until the end of this year to get its Network house in order or I start looking at other carriers.

    What is the incentive to hold back on your customers? Hey, AT&T if my phone was averaging 5-10 Mbps down here in NH over your network, I’d be screaming it from the hilltops. No amount of ad dollars can compete with word of mouth.

    Think about it.

  • Gabriel

    Good day,


    When they said they have 7.2mbps is these cities, the truth is they only have 3.6mbps – those are theoretical…

    I have my cousin working with AT&T for 8 years as software engineer and I asked him to answer me honestly, he said that AT&T have 21mbps in SOME cities but most of their towers only have 14.4mbps, 7.2mbps & 3.6mbps…
    I asked why? Because he said AT&T doesn’t want to spend more on hspa+ unlike tmobile has lots of 42mbps towers and will move to 84mbps next year if they will not be merge to AT&T…

    The fastest carrier is Verizon then tmobile then sprint and last is AT&T – he accepted it…

    Th problem with Verizon evdo is old and can’t be push more that’s why their 3G is suck, then AT&T capitalize with that, when they launched the iPhone 4s…

    For now if your signal with tmobile is great and you have HTC AMAZE & SAMSUNG GALAXY S2, you will be so happy for more years with TMOBILE… GREAT PHONES WITH SUPER FAST INTERNET…

  • Eric Mann

    For ATT to suggest that you can simply return the phone is completely bogus. Their online chat representatives misrepresent this as well. Following are the ATT return policy and the chat session where an ATT misrepresented the fees to me:



    AT&T sales representatives are happy to assist you with your questions. Click below to begin your live text chat.

    AT&T sales representatives will not have access to your personal account. This service is provided to you under AT&TsTerms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.
    You are now chatting with Joseph Ma., an AT&T sales representative.
    Joseph Ma.: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support. How may I assist you with placing your order today?
    eric: can you tell me what the return policy is?
    Joseph Ma.: I’ll be happy to tell you about our return policy.
    Joseph Ma.: We offer a 30 day full return policy on all devices and plans.
    eric: tks. are there any charges?
    Joseph Ma.: No there are not.
    eric: ok. tks.